Attorney general candidate steps up criticism
CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Republican attorney general candidate Patrick Morrisey sharpened his criticism of Democrat incumbent Attorney General Darrell McGraw on Wednesday with a radio ad titled, "Thy Name is Darrell, The King."
The ad steps up Morrisey's allegations that McGraw is using state resources to campaign for re-election.
The McGraw campaign strongly denied Morrisey's attack, which is premised on recent campaign finance filings that show McGraw is not spending any money on campaign staff.
The ad alleges, ". . . McGraw doesn't even spend a penny on campaign staff. That's because he relies on taxpayer money to campaign."
McGraw's campaign spokeswoman, Denise Tucker, denied that. She and everyone else on the campaign are volunteers, she said in a telephone interview.
"The campaign does exist, and it is not run out of the Capitol by any stretch of the imagination," Tucker said.
Tucker said the campaign has had better things to do than respond to press inquiries or return fire at Morrisey, whose campaign vigorously sends statements to the press and messages to Internet followers.
"Most of the press just wants to carry his water, and we've just got other things to do," Tucker said.
But for the first time this year, McGraw's campaign did respond to a Morrisey press release. The Morrisey press release on Tuesday made accusations similar to those found in the ad, which was released Wednesday.
Morrisey's campaign imagined a fake "Campaign Plan" for McGraw.
According to Morrisey, Step No. 1 included having the government pick and pay for "distributing campaign-style literature at fairs." Step No. 2 included avoiding spending any money on staff by using office staff.
But McGraw's campaign fired back.
"Traditionally, our state wide office holders go out to serve the public at fairs, festivals and parades, every year — not just in election years. That's what officials do in West Virginia. They bring efficient and accessible government directly to the people in their communities," a spokesman said in a press release.
West Virginia Citizens Against Lawsuit Abuse, an industry-backed group that has long been a foe of McGraw, said state expense reports show McGraw's office has spent nearly $430,000 on radio and television ads this year.
McGraw's office has traditionally defended those expenses by saying they are trying to get the word out about consumer protection services offered by the office. This year, a good chunk of the money is coming from a national mortgage settlement. McGraw's office contends it is advertising those consumer-friendly services in the only way certain to reach consumers.
In their most recent campaign finance filings, made late last week, Morrisey had more cash on hand than McGraw.
McGraw's campaign had about $150,000, and Morrisey had about $290,000.
The McGraw campaign tried to turn that advantage on its head.
"Don't be misled," the campaign said. "The fact is this out-of-state millionaire has loaned his campaign $250,000 and on the most recent report he donated nearly $30,000 additional dollars."
Morrisey is also receiving a good chunk of his money from out-of-state donors. At least a third of his recent donations came from people who do not live in West Virginia.
This was part of a conscious effort by his campaign, according to campaign emails obtained earlier this year by the Daily Mail.
A former Morrisey campaign aide, Richie Parsons, told Morrisey campaign staffers in April to try to get donors from two groups of out-of-state people who might be keen on supporting Morrisey.
One group was Morrisey's contacts in Washington, D.C., where he used to work as an aide on Capitol Hill and was in private practice as a lawyer and lobbyist.
The other group was donors to Morrisey's unsuccessful 2000 campaign to represent New Jersey in the U.S. House. (Morrisey moved to West Virginia's Eastern Panhandle several years ago.)
In the end, Morrisey received $6,650 from people who donated to his 2000 run for Congress and more than $60,000 at out-of-state fundraisers.
Asked about the plan to get out-of-state donations, the Morrisey campaign said the "real issue in this finance report is why Darrell McGraw continues to engage in highly suspect and potentially illegal activities, not where some of our fundraising comes from."